Loyalty Pledge Nixed for Firehouse Primary

Jeremy Aldrich -- April 16th, 2010

Local Republican officials have canceled plans to require voters at next Tuesday’s canvass to promise they would vote for all Republican candidates in the coming election.  Tuesday’s event, which will elect the Republican candidate for the yet-to-be-specified special election to fill Matt Lohr’s seat in the House of Delegates, will be held from 4:00-8:00 PM at Lacey Springs Elementary School (for county voters) and Keister Elementary School (for city voters).  

A “canvass callissued on April 1 and amended on April 13 said that voters “who are in accord with the principles of the Republican Party and who, if requested, express in open meeting either orally or in writing as may be required, their intent to support all of its nominees for public office in the ensuing election, may participate as members of the Republican Party.”

As late as Thursday, 26th District GOP Chairman Joel Hensley said, “Voters in our Republican canvass will be required to sign in, show their identification and affirm in writing their intent to support all of the nominees of the Republican Party for public office in the ensuing election.  These requirements are long standing and are consistent with the notion that Republicans select Republican candidates and Democrats select Democratic candidates.”

But by this evening, word was spreading that at a Friday meeting of the 26th District Republican leadership the decision was made not to require a signed oath.  However, Credentials Committee member Chaz Evans-Haywood noted that “the call is clear and folks would need to decide what it means to them,” adding that he believes area voters will not try to manipulate the process. According to informed sources, the group also decided how votes would be counted for Tuesday’s canvass and that the winner will be announced on the courthouse steps with all three candidates present, but final vote tallies will not be released publicly.

According to the rules of the Democratic caucus, which on Thursday selected Kai Degner as the party’s nominee, “Every person who participates in the caucus must sign a certification form saying they are a registered voter, a Democrat, that they do not intend to support a candidate opposed to the Democratic nominee in the next ensuing election, are not a member of any other political party, and have not participated and will not participate in the nominating process of any other Party for the 2010 26th District election.”  Democratic City Council candidate Joe Fitzgerald says that such party loyalty is “a bedrock of our political system” and has been a part of Virginia party practice for at least half a century.

Martha Brissette, a policy analyst for the Virginia State Board of Elections, says that state law does not govern this type of nominating process and the SBE has no opinion on loyalty oaths for party nominations.  They are governed instead by the rules of the political party.  There are more stringent state laws for presidential primaries.  A similar loyalty pledge implemented by the Republican Party of Virginia (and approved by the SBE) for the 2008 presidential primary made waves and was criticized by state Democrats as “a slap in the face to voters”.

Photo by Flickr user VaguelyArtistic.

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14 Responses to “Loyalty Pledge Nixed for Firehouse Primary”

  1. Lowell Fulk says:

    Good job in breaking this story and getting the scoop on everyone Jeremy!

  2. republitarian says:

    I have news for all the democrats,independents, and lazy republicans.

    This primary IS the election for the HOD seat. We all love Kai, but this thing will we settled on the 20th of April from 4-8pm.

    Kai has less than a snowball’s chance in the middle of summer in a 65% republican district.

    You are going to get a republican as your delegate, and the 20th is your opportunity to pick him.

    Don’t worry about pledges and rules because they sure don’t. GO VOTE!

    • I think Myron makes a valid point here.

      Why shouldn’t I vote on Tuesday? What are the arguments against it? If there is no pledge, what is the criteria for participating or abstaining?

      The last time I voted in a Republican primary was in 2000. Several months later, in the general (presidential) election, I voted for Harry Browne, the Libertarian candidate. Should I not have participated in the primary? Over the past decade, I’ve shifted from conservative independent to progressive independent. I wasn’t a Republican then, and I’m not a Democrat now.

      Should independents abstain from primaries? Or should we vote, especially if what Myron says is true?

      • Lowell Fulk says:

        I’m somewhat surprised by the Republican decision, but am also impressed. This is how it should be. Yes Brent, because I know you to be a person who is very protective of his integrity, and his community, you should participate. Because you, like many, will choose the candidate you believe would do the best if elected to office. Only by participating can you help turn your ideals into reality…

      • JGFitzgerald says:

        The “firehouse primary” is a party-run event. A relevant questions might be: If it were a caucus or a convention, would you attend and participate? If you believe the event is designed to benefit one candidate, you might ask if voting helps to make it more fair, or if voting only gives the appearance of legitimacy. Tilting all the if’s in one direction: Would you participate in a flawed process run by an organization you’re not a part of?

        • Joe, I completely understand where you are coming from, however, we are talking about the representatives that make laws.

          It’s not like some Ruritan club or church where non-participation carries no ill effects to you, your children, and subsequent generations. Unfortunately, in a system that favors two parties , the independents and others who cannot stand to “join the crowd” have no options.

          We are choosing everyones’ rep. in this district on the 20th of April. Be there, or be square.

          Just remember, the districts are manipulated by one party to gain an advantage over the other one. I’m not too concerned if they’re concerned if I’m voting in “their” primary.

    • I vote in nearly in EVERY primary. In democratic primaries, I try to help weed out the biggest devil, in the republican primaries, I try to help pick the best candidate.

      If you are a democrat, and want a voice in who the next delegate is, then you need to vote in this primary…..because Kai, based on the make-up of the district, has no shot. A dead republican beats a live democrat…remember?

      • Alan Finks says:

        Myron, just remember the dead republican was all of Rockingham County, except the city of Harrisonburg. This election is all of Harrisonburg and only about 1/3 of Rockingham county. Your right the county is around 65-70 % Repulican, but the city is not. Harrisonburg has voted from a low of 30 % to a high of 65% Democratic in elections in recent years. Who knows for sure what actually will happen.

  3. Deb SF says:

    Got Elledge lit in the mail today, the only one of the three Republican candidates to send one to my house. Mostly as expected front and back except for the last bullet point under the “issues” category: “Will stand in resistance to Federal mandates requiring Virginians to participate in Obama-care.”

    Clear, clean notice on the front detailing the firehouse primary times and locations.

    • megan says:

      Tony Wilt’s mailers also state that he will “support the Attorney General Cuccinelli’s effort to keep “Obama care” out of Virginia.”

  4. David Miller says:

    Wasn’t the last time states stood up to federal government after the passage of civil rights in the 60’s? Didn’t that require fed troops in Birmingham? I really don’t like his pledge, I stand with our democratically elected leader instead by standing in support of our health are reform.

    • Lowell Fulk says:

      There was also that wonderful effort referred to as Massive Resistance which sought to prevent little black and white kids from going to the same schools.


      Of note: “Another facet of these laws was the creation of tuition grants which could be given to students so they could attend a private school of their choice; again, in practice, this meant support of all-white schools that appeared as a response to forced integration.”

      Sound familiar?

  5. cook says:

    In 2008 there was an effort by non-Democrats to invade the Democratic primaries and vote for HRC, perceived to be the most beatable candidate. I thought that was manipulative & wrong. However, participating in an open primary and voting for the best (or least worst) option presented seems to be quite different. That’s all we ever do anyway.

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